02:29 GMT08 May 2021
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    WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange’s British extradition trial won’t be decided until January, but the effect of the US presidential election on his ultimate fate is hard to predict, since his case and the dangers posed to freedom of the press was never a topic for the candidates to debate, a journalist told Sputnik.

    Taylor Hudak, co-founder of Action for Assange and the editor of acTVism Munich, told Radio Sputnik’s Fault Lines on Monday that the court scheduling the ruling in Assange’s case for January 4, 2021, was a purposeful move to hold it until after the November 2020 elections in the United States.

    [Interview begins at 70:45]

    “The judge herself admitted this,” Hudak told hosts Shane Stranahan and Jamarl Thomas, noting it points “to the larger question of: could Assange’s situation be impacted by the results of the US election? It’s very difficult to tell at this point, and there are differing opinions on both sides.”

    Edward Fitzgerald, a lawyer on Assange’s defense team, has said if US President Donald Trump wins reelection, “it will be all the worse” for Assange

    However, Democratic contender Joe Biden is also on record as having called Assange a “high-tech terrorist,” although he has said nothing about the extradition trial or the charges against Assange as of yet.

    ‘We don’t really know, because this was not an issue that was addressed, I don’t think, ever during the campaign,” she noted. 

    “But we do know that Assange tried under Trump’s DoJ [Department of Justice], and it did come out in court that Trump allegedly personally requested for Assange to be arrested. And, of course, the secretary of state right now, Mike Pompeo, has been very vocal about his dislike for WikiLeaks as an organization. So, neither of the candidates have been positive when it comes to Assange and the larger issue of press freedoms in the United States and throughout the world.”

    Hudak said Assange’s case was clearly political in nature, pointing to the attempt via former US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) to negotiate the trading of a pardon for Assange in exchange for him pointing the finger at the source of the 2016 Democratic National Committee email leaks - an offer reportedly made at Trump’s direction.

    “I’m not sure how the judge is going to rule. Based off of her history, it doesn’t seem that she will be preventing the extradition, because she has I think around a 96% rate of granting extradition, so the chances are quite high,” Hudak noted of Judge Vanessa Baraitser, who is a district judge at Westminster Magistrates' Court. “But, of course, this will go to the appeals court.”

    However, Hudak noted that “it would be a real, impactful way to stand up to” the US intelligence community, with whom Trump is often at odds, if he granted Assange a pardon. “I think he would be more likely to do so in his second term than he would in his first term, of course, because it’s a ‘controversial move’ to make. But Trump is very unpredictable, and it’s difficult to tell how this all will play out.”

    “I think some of the important issues right now have to do a lot with the censorship that we’re seeing, and it’s really coming from the Democrats,” the journalist noted. “There is both an authoritarian Right but there is also an authoritarian Left, and when it comes to the censorship that we have been seeing - and this does kind of link to the overall theme of WikiLeaks - the censorship that we have been seeing is very, very concerning as it relates to this US election.”

    “Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook said during a CBS interview that they’re going to block political and campaign ads [during] the last few days prior to the election. That is essentially censoring information. YouTube channels have been taken down; this is largely done to accounts and to journalists who are critical of Joe Biden, who are speaking about, of course, Hunter Biden’s laptop and those revelations that were published in the New York Post,” Hudak told Sputnik.

    “This attack on the free press through Julian’s case is very consequential, and it also emboldens more censorship and emboldens more attacks on free speech and free press,” she said, noting it “makes it seem like it’s a normal and acceptable thing to do, especially when there isn’t any pushback from the media  - and there really hasn’t been, which is why I was saying earlier, it’s really a shame that we did not hear the candidates’ perspective on issues related to the free press.”

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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